When our boys were small we moved to a neighborhood with a community pool and we spent many happy summers there. But one summer I remember meeting a new neighbor. This neighbor was a young father with twin boys. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him in the pool—complete with large tattoos and body piercing. I had the urge to draw my boys close and protect them from this scary stranger. I’m glad I didn’t act on this first impression. As I watched him play with his boys and saw the love he lavished on them it was obvious he was a good dad.
I’d conveniently forgotten the entire episode until this past summer, when our oldest son and his wife came to live for a few months. Our son had just received his honorable discharge from the Marine Corps and I was so excited he’d be able to spend some time there, introducing his wife to the neighborhood where he’d grown up and getting used to being a civilian again.
His first day at the pool I got there first. I settled into a deck chair, chatting with several neighbors and catching up on the winter’s happenings. As I was visiting, I noticed several people stop and stare. I glanced at the entrance and was excited to see it was my son, soon others in the neighborhood would be able to welcome him home.
As I watched thought, the reception wasn’t what I expected. You see, while my son was in the military he’d acquired some body art. His tattoos aren’t objectionable—several are Christian in their messages—but they are tattoos. I was immediately transported back to my reaction so many years ago—but this time the scary man was my son. I immediately rushed to his side and re-introduced him to neighbors who didn’t recognize him. The atmosphere changed and he was welcomed back with all the joy I could have hoped.
But the experience stays with me.
I asked God what He wanted me to take away from this and these are the thoughts I’ve had.
- Tattoos: What difference could I make if I was so marked by the love of God that people stopped and stared?
- Piercing: How would my life change if my heart was truly pierced for Him?
- Long Hair: What would happen if people could visibly see that I’m covered by God’s grace?
- Chains: How I wish the world could see the chains that no longer bind me.
Kind of makes you think—at least it did me.
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